Bettina Furnée, A World to Come, All Saints and St Andrew’s Church, Kingston, Cambridge

Posted on Monday 10 June 2019
Art and Christianity Press Release - Artist Bettina Furnée creates newly commissioned installation for a rural church in response to the church’s historic wall paintings.

Open daily 10:00 - 18:00, 12 July – 1 October 2019

Bettina Furnée, whose studio is at nearby Wysing Arts Centre, has re-imagined the church's medieval paintings – depicting schemes of good and evil such as the Wheel of the Seven Acts of Corporal Mercy set above the Tree of Evil with Seven Deadly Sins – for a contemporary audience.

Her mixed media installation is comprised of seven individually designed robes (known as chasubles) onto which are stitched animal symbols of the Deadly Sins together with the opposing Contrary Virtues, creating characters such as ‘the peacock of humility’ and ‘the toad of generosity’. These reflect a departure from the binaries of medieval morality to a world view in which good and evil are viewed on a single spectrum, and where opposing characteristics might be held safely together. Furnée also reflects on our cultural history of deploying animals (and women) to signify particular concepts or qualities, often undesirable ones.

Furnée has commented: ‘When times get tough there is always a temptation to engage in scapegoating, and that relates to the time we are in. With Brexit, it feels so personal! I’m Dutch and I feel personally insecure; I’m a different beast perhaps, different labels have been attached.’

Furnée has also designed a neon text piece reading ‘A World to Come’ to be displayed alongside the chasubles. The concept of ‘The World to Come’ appears in Christian, Hindu and Jewish thought and refers to the idea that our current world is flawed and will, in the future, be replaced. This concept differs from the idea of heaven or the afterlife, referring instead to a new and better age on Earth.

Furnée uses ‘A’ instead of ‘The’ to insist that this world is not preordained but must be of our own making. The ‘l’ flashes, causing the text to periodically read ‘A Word to Come’, reflecting Furnée’s long-standing interest in language. Furnée has said: ‘Text is always ambiguous; it's very liquid, and it's about how you take it. You only need to give it a slightly different context or slant and it says something different.’

Bettina Furnée on the commission: ‘I am interested in the way religion can reconcile contradictions. There are certain ideas in Christianity, for example accounts of miracles, which are hard to believe rationally, yet people adhere for an emotional reason. Most people are able to hold contradictory emotional and rational beliefs simultaneously, however, and that's intriguing. I was interested in bringing contradictory elements together in one piece.’

This exhibition has been funded by The Jerusalem Trust, The Headley Trust and Allchurches Trust. It has been curated by Art and Christianity .

Paul Playford, Grants Officer at Allchurches Trust, said: ‘Art and Christianity play an important role in developing relationships and dialogue between churches and their communities and between different modes of understanding the world and we’re pleased to support them in delivering this installation. Bettina Furnee’s, A World to Come, at All Saints and St Andrew’s Church is a relevant and exciting work that will give many cause to take pause and think deeply about their own spirituality.’

 

Notes for Editors:

The Church of All Saints and St Andrew’s, Kingston

Kingston’s church is Grade I listed and is built of field stones and clunch. The late C13 chancel is the earliest survival. The tower, nave and aisles were completely rebuilt in the perpendicular style at the end of the C15.

Kingston’s extensive wall paintings are exceptional: the earliest – about 1290 – are in the chancel, including two knights on foot, representing the battle between good and evil. In the north aisle may be seen St George and the Dragon, St Christopher, and at the west end, a wheel of the Seven Acts of Mercy with a Tree of Evil and a devil below (images of the Seven Deadly Sins have been lost). Over the chancel arch is a late C15 depiction of the Crucifixion with three pairs of angels. There is a series of late C16 black letter texts above the nave arcade.

King Henry VI acquired the advowson in 1457, and for four centuries thereafter fellows of King’s College served as Rectors. There is abundant evidence of iconoclasm carried out on the orders of William Dowsing in 1644. A restoration of the church, by Comper and Bucknall, was begun in 1894, but not completed.

The Church’s address is Church Lane, Kingston, Cambridge CB23 2NG. 

Bettina Furnée Biography

Bettina Furnée was educated at Leiden University and Chelsea College of Art. Furnée has been involved in many public realm projects, producing site-specific text works for local government, architects, Arts Council England and The Ministry of Justice. Self-initiated recent projects include Even You Song (2017), an artwork in the form of choral evensong devised in collaboration with Lucy Sheerman (writer), with music by Cheryl Frances-Hoad. The work was premiered at Peterborough Cathedral in a production with printed libretto and digital film projections in February 2017. Furnée began her career with an internship letter cutting at David Kindersley’s Workshop in Cambridge.

Art + Christianity: A+C is the leading UK organisation in the field of visual art and religion; it seeks to foster and explore the dialogue between art, Christianity and other religious faiths. Since 1994, A+C has also published a quarterly journal. For more information on A+C projects please visit www.artandchristianity.org/art-inchurches.

Images are available on request; please contact A+C on mail@artandchristianity.org or call 020 3757 5492.